Block the Severn Barrage




Today, Dr Liam Fox MP launches a campaign to block the Severn Barrage on the grounds that it threatens thousands of jobs in Bristol and North Somerset, threatens the local economy, and will be disastrous for the environment in the Severn Estuary.  The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, local businesses, the Bristol Mayor, and many other MPs with constituencies upstream of the barrage – and on both sides of the estuary – have voiced concerns previously but now, Dr Fox calls on them to join him in forming a concerted opposition to the project.


Plans for the barrage, which would run between Cardiff and Weston, had initially been shelved but are now to be re-considered by the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee.  The decision to re-open these deliberations was taken very recently and has given under a month for businesses and environmental groups opposing the project to submit their evidence.  Dr Fox argues that this is an entirely unrealistic timeline for a project of this scale and will oppose the plans vigorously should the Select Committee move in favour of the barrage.  Dr Fox has also made enquiries with the parliamentary authorities on the Hybrid Bill proposed by Peter Hain MP to advance the cause of Hafren – the umbrella company for the consortium of construction companies hoping to build the barrage.  He understands that no such bill has yet been tabled, but has vowed to oppose the bill in the House of Commons for as long as it takes to block the project for good.


Dr Fox has also welcomed a report by RegenSW, to be published on Monday, looking at all renewable energy options for the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel.  The report is expected to confirm that there are viable tidal range, tidal stream, wave and offshore wind options for energy production in the region but that the numbers just don’t add up for a Cardiff to Weston barrage.


Speaking today, Dr Fox said “the proposal from the Hafren Consortium is not at all clear, especially on the impact on water levels at Avonmouth.  Independent estimates suggest that water levels may be as much as 2 metres lower which will have a profound impact on the ability of Bristol Port to handle modern cargo ships.  This threatens 500 jobs directly and 7,500 jobs in the wider Bristol/North Somerset economy but especially in Portbury, Portishead and Pill.”


He continued “the economic interest is compounded by the environmental impact of any such projects and I will be looking to meet with the RSPB soon so that I can fully understand the damage the barrage will cause to the salt marshes and mud flats that are used by 69,000 birds each winter.”


“Bristol has had a thriving port for centuries and the Severn Estuary is an essential habitat for hundreds of species of fish and birds.  The economic and environmental damage caused upstream of a Severn Barrage threatens both and these arguments need to be made in parliament and, if necessary, in the courts.  Energy security is vital to our national interest and green energy will play a role in that, but there are better, more modern, technologies that could harness the power of the estuary without damaging the environment or our local economy.”


“The campaign to ‘Block the Barrage’ begins today."